State Constitutional Amendment in Florida Introduced to Protect Rights of Youth in Foster Care to Counsel

Juvenile Law Center,

Juvenile Law Center strongly supports the amendment, urges commissioners to support Proposal 40

Tallahassee, FL A proposed amendment to the state constitution of Florida would ensure that children in the foster care system have access to counsel. Today, Juvenile Law Center joined partners in the state and nationwide calling on the Florida Constitution Revision commissioners to support this move, which is known as Proposal 40. A hearing will be held on Proposal 40 tomorrow.

“We believe that the right to counsel in dependency matters is crucial to ensuring that children’s voices are heard and that their rights are protected,” said Jennifer Pokempner, Child Welfare Policy Director at Juvenile Law Center. “We think that it is essential to ensuring that system-involved children have the best chances possible. We want that right protected in every state – it is what the youth of Florida deserve.”

Florida’s advocacy coalition Foster Fairness is leading the charge in this effort, maintaining that the constitutional amendment is the best way to protect the rights of children in the child welfare system. The group also notes that the cost of providing lawyers is outweighed by the savings, and an independent analysis has shown a positive financial impact for the state.

Ultimately, the decision to advance this move is in the hands of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. Foster Fairness and other partners across the state and country are calling on advocates for youth in foster care to make calls in support of this move.

“The right to counsel in child welfare matters is necessary to a fair and functioning child welfare system,” continued Pokempner. “Having this right in the state constitution ensures that youth can rely on the assistance of counsel and that it is truly embedded in the law and practice of the state. Juvenile Law Center strongly supports the inclusion of this amendment in Florida’s constitution, and we applaud the advocates working to make this protection a reality.”